With its zesty acidity, lighter body, and lower alcohol profile, Sauvignon Blanc has a loyal “Savvy B” fan base. Sauvignon Blanc’s racy acidity makes it a versatile, food-friendly wine. And just about nothing beats a glass of well-chilled Sauvignon Blanc with a goat cheese salad on a spring day. It’s a perfect pour for warmer weather, which is undoubtedly why International Sauvignon Blanc Day takes place on the first Friday in May.
Sauvignon Blanc is a highly aromatic grape that reflects its origins. When sourced from cooler climates, it can have citrus or green notes, such as lime, grapefruit, honeydew melon, bell pepper, gooseberry, and fresh-cut grass—or even hints of gunflint. In warmer climates, it leans toward tropical and stone fruits, such as mango and white peach.
Winemaking plays an equally important role. While a great deal of Sauvignon Blanc is produced as a single variety wine in stainless steel, a growing portion is being made by blending it with other grapes—including the perfumed Sauvignon Musqué clone and Sémillon—for extra aroma, flavor and body, and vinifying it with oak or alternative vessels, such as concrete eggs, to infuse texture.
Styles of Sauvignon Blanc can thus range from fresh and fruity everyday versions that are meant to be consumed young, to minerally, toasty and textural expressions that are crafted to age. Try pairing them with soft cheeses, salads, green herb dishes, seafood (especially oysters), Thai or Vietnamese food, and even the difficult-to-pair asparagus.
French Roots & Surprising Parenthood
Whether Sauvignon Blanc originated in the Loire Valley or near Bordeaux remains unclear, but early mentions of the grape occurred in France in the 1500s. The name Sauvignon Blanc derives from sauvage (wild), vigne (vine), and blanc (white). Aptly named, the wild white grapevine needs to be reined in with tight canopy management.
Fun fact: Sauvignon Blanc, along with Cabernet Franc, is the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. This discovery, which happened only five years ago, sent a shock wave through the wine industry as no one thought a white grape could be parent a red one. Cabernet’s lineage might also explain why Cabernet can have green notes if picked too early.
Sauvignon Blanc is the world’s second-most planted white grape, after Chardonnay, but it reaches its best expression in cool-climate regions. These include France’s Loire Valley, where Sauvignon Blanc is known as Sancerre or Pouilly-Fumé, and in Bordeaux, where it’s usually blended with Sémillon and barrel-fermented to make a dry white Bordeaux blend. It’s always a fun test to serve Sancerre to someone who claims to not like Sauvignon Blanc and get a positive reaction. France’s mineral-driven version will usually convert most people who don’t like the fruitier version into Savvy B fans.
Marlborough in New Zealand is one of the most famous and prolific Sauvignon Blanc regions. Interestingly, it’s also one of the rare wine regions that is planted heavily to one grape variety. The style here tends to be fruity, fresh and much more aromatic than in France. Crowded House, available at YourWineStore, makes a lovely, precise version that combines all the variety’s best characteristics: grapefruit and citrus, wrapped in tropical and stone fruit, with a gentle herbaceous undercurrent.
Some of the most exciting experimentation with Sauvignon Blanc is happening in Sonoma County. YourWineStore carries a wide selection of these offerings, which range from fun and fresh to sophisticated and age-worthy:
- At Matanzas Creek Winery, winemaker Marcia Torres Forno, an aromatics specialist, will harvest sections of different vineyards at different times to maximize the aromatics in the final blend. Try the barrel-fermented Journey Sauvignon Blanc, which melds citrus, minerality and fruit from three different AVAs into a divinely complex wine.
- Stonestreet Winery, which sits on a mountain overlooking Alexander Valley, makes superb, high-elevation, single-vineyard Sauvignon Blanc such as Aurora Point, made partially with the fragrant Sauvignon Musqué clone, and Terrace Ridge, which is blended with a hefty portion of Sémillon.
- Speaking of elevation, Captûre’s Pine Mountain Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from one of the highest planted Sauvignon Blanc vineyards in the United States at 3,000’ in elevation. Intense citrus and tropic fruit, bright minerality and a creamy, rich style describe this wine.
- La Crema recently added Sauvignon Blanc to its lineup. Spending time in both stainless steel and oak, the La Crema Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc is highly quaffable with its crisp, fruity palate that has a classic mouthfeel.
- Sourced from warmer Alexander Valley vineyards, Arrowood’s Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc leans toward the tropical side, balanced by crisp acidity and a round texture from lees stirring.
- For a great poolside wine, try the Murphy-Goode’s North Coast Sauvignon Blanc, with its focused acidity and spectrum of citrus to tropical flavors. Fun fact: Dave Ready, Sr. the current winemaker’s dad, introduced the concept of French oak barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc to Murphy-Goode.
- Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc has layers of floral, citrus, and tropical notes and a touch of Sémillon for a luxurious mouthfeel.